Protesters from Long Island civil rights groups called Saturday for the Nassau County Police Department to fire an officer cleared of charges he assaulted a suspect in an arrest that was caught on tape.
About two dozen activists and the parents of the man police struck, Kyle Howell of Westbury, chanted in front of the Third Precinct building in Williston Park.
A judge acquitted Officer Vincent LoGiudice, 35, of assault charges in Mineola on Friday.
A store surveillance video showed LoGiudice punching and kneeing Howell during a Westbury traffic stop on April 25, 2014. Acting state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Harrington said Friday in delivering the acquittal on one felony and one misdemeanor charge that the “videotape alone does not give a clear picture of the events.”
Diane Goins, chair of the Long Island Chapter of New York Communities for Change, described the decision as “a grave miscarriage of justice.”
She was accompanied by protesters from Nassau County’s chapters of the NAACP and the National Action Network.
Amy Marion, Howell’s Garden City-based attorney in a federal lawsuit, said the initial sworn statement from the officer did not mention officers fearing for their safety.
LoGiudice’s attorney, William Petrillo of Garden City, said Howell’s testimony proved officers had reason to fear he was reaching for a weapon. He called it “misleading” for protestors to enlarge and pass out the sworn statement from LoGuidice, saying the officer expressed fear for his safety in other police paperwork at the time.
The officer had testified he felt a “rush of fear” after Howell dived across the car’s interior and reached under a seat as if grabbing for a gun.
Petrillo said his client wants to return to full duty. “He’s a tremendous asset to the police department,” he said. “He looks forward to serving the citizens of Nassau County in the same way he always has.”
Joan Howell, the suspect’s mother, said the trial of LoGiudice was turned into a trial of her son. “Kyle is a victim. Listening to the trial, you’d think Kyle was at fault,” she said.
Howell, now 22, suffered multiple facial fractures and needed two surgeries after the encounter. He testified that he did not resist arrest.
Howell, on probation for burglary at the time, has a federal lawsuit pending against the county, LoGiudice, and LoGiudice’s partner, Officer Basil Gomez — who was not indicted.
Protesters also called for Gomez to be fired. During the protest, honks or supportive shouts came from a number of passing cars, while a handful of people in other passing cars shouted “Respect the police” and “Go home!”
During the protest, an unknown person pointed a handheld video camera down at protesters from the roof of the police precinct.
Sergio Argueta, with the group Nassau County-based advocacy group The Corridor Counts, said protesters would “shut down” Roosevelt Mall before Christmas if the department did not act.
Acting Police Commissioner Thomas C. Krumpter, who watched the protest from a parking lot on the side, said the department had an ongoing administrative investigation. LoGiudice is on modified duty during the administrative probe.
Krumpter said the department would protect the rights of protesters, “but there are lines. People have a right to get access to the mall.” He spoke briefly to protest organizers after the event.